Monday, July 28, 2008
Recipe: Red Beans and Rice
Let's start this out with a little lesson in Creole cooking, of which red beans and rice is a part. Apparently, it is not Cajun. Personally, I find Cajun and Creole nearly indistinguishable since they share very similar flavor profiles. Does that make me a bad
southerner? Perhaps. I can, however, tell you a bit about the history of the two cuisines. Cajuns - or Acadians - came from Canada. They have French roots, and therefore Cajun cooking is French cooking
adapted to locally available ingredients. Hence you have the ubiquitous presence of roux (a thickening agent based on flour and butter or oil), stock, and their adaptation of mirepoix called the
holy trinity. Mirepoix consists of two parts onion, one part celery, and one part carrot. The holy trinity simply replaces the carrot with bell pepper.
Creole cooking originated in New Orleans. It also uses French techniques, but blends other European, African, and American influences. It also has different origins in that Cajun cooking
originated from peasant food while Creole cooking originated with aristocrats.
Along with roux, chicken stock, shellfish stock, onion, celery, and bell pepper, there are several ingredients you will commonly find in Cajun and/or Creole cooking. These include garlic, green onions, cayenne pepper, bay leaf, shellfish (esp. crawfish (crawfish etoufee
is friggin yummy)), smoked sausage (esp. andouille), and white rice. You can pretty successfully fake a Cajun/Creole dish by including the holy trinity and some of the other ingredients.
Now let me say that I am not an expert on these cuisines. I've learned what I have by looking for recipes to satisfy the tastes of my Southern boy of a husband and talking to my history buff and Louisiana-living father in law.
Now that the background is over, let's get to the cooking.
Traditionally, the beans, rice, and sausage are cooked separately and combined at the dinner table, but I don't do that. I mean, why dirty up three pots when you can dirty up just one? So I throw it all in the Crock Pot. This is also often made with a pork bone or ham hock, but I don't do that either. I find the andouille sausage imparts plenty of meaty flavor to the beans. If you are a vegetarian, I would suggest adding some liquid smoke or smoked meat substitute as the
smoky flavor of the sausage is very important to the dish. This makes a ton, and it's even better as leftovers, so freeze it for later.
1 c diced onion
1/2 c diced celery
1/2 c diced bell pepper (color doesn't really matter, I use green
because it's cheap)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
2 c kidney beans
2 links of andouille sausage, quartered and cut in 1/2 inch slices (I
want to say that's 4 oz)
1 q chicken stock
2-4 c water
salt and pepper, to taste
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 c uncooked long grain white rice
1. Rinse the beans and pick out any non-bean matter. I find that
there is no need to soak them since they will be cooking for so long.
2. Toss everything but the rice into a slow cooker. Stir, cover, and
cook on low all day.
3. About 30 minutes before serving, stir in the rice.
4. Remove the bay leaf before serving. Offer hot sauce at the table.
Wasn't that easy?